Dear MSVU students, faculty and staff,
February is Black History Month in Canada, referred to as African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia, and an opportunity to learn about the culture, history and experiences of Black people across the country and beyond.
African Nova Scotian history is integral to Nova Scotian history; the stories of this province and this country are not complete without the stories of those of African descent. It’s a history that has not been prioritized in the telling of Nova Scotian history. It should be. And observances like African Heritage Month can help change that.
The Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs has declared the 2023 African Heritage Month theme to be: “Seas of Struggle – African Peoples from Shore to Shore.” It was a theme chosen to “recognize the resilience, strength, and determination of people of African descent from the shores of Africa to the shores of Nova Scotia – with the Atlantic Ocean being the everlasting connection.”
The Federal government appropriately notes the need to recognize the contributions of Black Canadians every day through their 2023 theme: “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day.”
And in case you weren’t aware, we’re nearing the end of the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), the goals of which are to strengthen global cooperation in support of people of African descent, increase awareness, and recognize their full and equal participation in society.
Underlying these observances is a need to bring increasing attention to the past and present experiences of people of African descent, and a need to address the inequities, racism and discrimination that persist.
Events and activities
There are a number of events and activities planned at MSVU and in the community to mark African Heritage Month. I encourage you to join in as many as you can.
MSVU African Heritage Month Opening Ceremony: The Black Student Support Office invites you to join in the African Heritage Month 2023 opening ceremony on Monday, January 30 at 11:30 a.m. in the MSUV Art Gallery. The event will feature performances, African art and drumming, and launch a month of connection, reflection, and community building.
More events coming up at MSVU: From a reflective conversation on Black/African history at MSVU over the past 150 years, to an African Heritage Month fair, the Black Student Support Office has lots planned this month. Check out their full AHM events calendar online. You’ll also see the Pan African Flag flying on the front of the Seton Academic Centre in February.
Video series featuring African Nova Scotian women in business: A video series airing this February and created by entrepreneur Tia Upshaw, founder of Blk Women in Excellence, will spotlight the voices of African Nova Scotian women in business and celebrate their contributions to Nova Scotia economic development. Called the 28 Day Series – Celebrating Black History Month through Black women Entrepreneurs the project is supported by the Centre for Women and Business at MSVU. Learn more about the video series
2023 Black Excellence in STEMM conference: Lead ally and co-founder of the Canadian Black Scientists Network Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal, will join colleagues to host the 2nd annual Black Excellence in STEMM virtual conference from February 1 to 4, 2023 (STEMM = science, tech, engineering, math, and medicine). Learn more about the BE-STEMM conference
Nancy’s Chair Presentation: On Monday, February 6 from 12:00-1:15pm in the Seton Faculty Lounge, Dr. Adwoa Onuora, Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies, is delivering a presentation related to her research, “Coming Out or Dash Out? Cultivating culturally responsive safe spaces for Black 2SLGBTQIA+ youth within home and communities.”
Black Student Support Office expanded: There’s more space for students to gather in Seton 314 and Randy Headley, Black Student Support Advisor, has moved just around the corner. All are welcome to stop by.
The Baobab Project: The Baobab Project is a student-driven podcast that presents information through the lens of Africentricity. It was created with the guidance of Randy Headley. Episodes explore the experiences of several Black students at MSVU along their academic journeys; DIS-ability; Black hair; how to be an ally; soul food; and more. I strongly recommend you give it a listen!
Black Student Awards Fund: In 2021, we established a new fund in support of Black students at MSVU. The reality is that many Black students face significant barriers to post-secondary education, including financial barriers. This fund aims to address that. I’m pleased to share that thanks to our MSVU donors, more than $70,000 has been raised to date, and awards continue to be distributed to students.
Scarborough Charter: In February MSVU will host its first planning meeting with Black faculty, students and staff to begin work towards creating a Black inclusion strategy to address the recommendations of the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education to which MSVU is a signatory.
Ensuring a safe and welcoming community for all: As noted in a recent message (available online for students and through the Intranet for faculty/staff – log-in required), we continue to roll-out unconscious bias training at MSVU and will soon host anti-racism training as well. We also continue to plan for a town hall at which we will facilitate open and honest dialogue about our experiences on campus, from an EDIA perspective. A new Equity Hub is in development too. Stay tuned for updates.
A sincere thanks to the many leaders at MSVU and in the community who give generously of their time and experience to advance efforts in support of Black and African Nova Scotian students, faculty and staff at MSVU and beyond. In particular to members of the Students of African Descent Advisory Committee; Black Student Support Advisor Randy Headley; members of the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility Committee; and EDIA Advisor Delvina Bernard – I am grateful for your leadership and the opportunity to learn alongside you.
Dr. Joël Dickinson
President and Vice-Chancellor
Mount Saint Vincent University